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23 Better-Than-Therapy Fundraising Ideas

September 12, 2022
5 minutes

If you’re anything like us, you have your therapist, yoga teacher, and personal pastry chef on speed dial these days. (Okay, we don’t have a personal pastry chef … or a yoga teacher. But we hope you do!) The news cycle is bleak and fairly relentless, and it can be hard to know what to do besides doom-scroll for hours on end, cocooned in a weighted blanket.

Still, self-care is important, and we know most therapists have a wait list several miles long right now. Our solution? Fundraising ideas that are tailor-made for our semi-dystopian times! Whether they’re offering an emotional outlet or a way to make a concrete difference on the issues that matter to you, these fundraising ideas are better than therapy!*

And one more thing: Keep your chin up, friend. Because here’s a great thing about working in the world of nonprofits: We’re living proof that a lot of people want this world to be a better place. One life at a time, one day at a time, we’re on the ground, fighting the good fight. So, let’s forge ahead, together—here’s to a brighter future, starting right now!

*Fundraising, while super awesome, is not a substitute for therapy. Also, we’re huge proponents of therapy, and we encourage everyone to prioritize their well-being and seek help. Okay, back to it!

A note: Creating a safe space for everyone

Before we dive in, we need to get really real for a minute. These days, there are a lot of angry and dangerous people out there. With some of these events, it’s important to take the time to create a safe space for everyone. Evaluate your event’s risk level and plan accordingly. If your event is the type that might attract extremists, hire the proper staff, take visible security precautions, and make an emergency plan.

And now, onto the fundraisers.

Fundraisers to remind you that things aren’t 100% terrible

No one’s denying that times are tough, but sometimes, it helps to get a little perspective. So, try on a pair of chic rose-colored glasses and check out our most optimistic fundraising ideas.

  1. History trivia night. Sure, things aren’t great right now, but they could always be worse! Host a trivia night filled with factoids about our planet’s tumultuous history, including a category that highlights the progress made when it comes to your cause. By the end of the evening, everyone can toast to the fact that we’re not living through the Salem Witch Trials—yet!
  1. Speakeasy party. When the going gets tough, the tough get drinking a crisp glass of pinot gris. A good drink (always in moderation) can soothe a troubled mind, so why not celebrate this golden age of mixology with a speakeasy-themed fundraising gala? Don your favorite cloche hat and raise a gin rickey to the end of prohibition, all for a good cause!
  1. Make your own ice cream. We’re not saying you should eat your feelings, but we’re definitely not saying you shouldn’t. And personally, our Bridget Jones-approved comfort food of choice is a pint of ice cream (any flavor but bubblegum) with as many toppings as possible. Partner with a local ice cream shop to host a make-your-own-flavor fundraiser, sure to remind everyone of life’s simple, creamy pleasures.
  1. Glass half-full sale. Sell coffee, lemonade, or tiramisu in a cup, but only fill each glass halfway. Remind people of the delightful fact that their glass is still half full. Nod sagely while everyone flips their frowns upside down.

Fundraisers to give you a fleeting sense that everyone can get along

Once upon a time, it felt like there were issues that everyone pretty much agreed on. Y’know, make love not war; give me your tired, your poor … all that good stuff. Harken back to those semi-harmonious days of yore these community-centric fundraising events.

  1. Wishing tree. All you need is a many-limbed tree, some blank tags on strings, and a bin of pens. Encourage donors and passerbys alike to write their hopes and dreams on a tag and tie it to the tree. Print out some information about your work and leave out a jar for donations on the honor system. We’ve heard that when the wind blows, a wish comes true.
  1. Community mural. Nothing brings people together quite like making art. Host a public mural-painting day to brighten a local building and cultivate a sense of community. Bonus points if the mural is relevant to your cause! You can fundraise by selling refreshments, plus it’s a great way to attract some new volunteers with an artistic flair.
  1. Stone soup and salad dinner. The classic Stone Soup folk tale reminds us to embrace strangers and give freely, with a focus on the greater good. That makes it a perfect fundraising event! Bring your community together by asking every guest to pay a small entry fee and bring one ingredient for a communal soup or salad. If you end up with peanut butter and anchovies, use them as an optional garnish.
  1. At-home parade. Is your nonprofit located in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood? If so, an at-home parade is a great way to bring people together, entertain, and spark creativity. Ask your fellow block-mates to decorate their houses, buildings, driveways, or front yards. Then, hand out donation boxes to each participating location. Share a parade route map in the local paper and on social media with an adorable hashtag, and bask in the warm-and-fuzzy feels.

Fundraisers to help you feel like you have a semblance of control over your own body

When SCOTUS struck down Roe, it was a wrenching blow to anyone who thought they had control over their own body. While the law’s the law for now, there are still ways to take back some of that power.

  1. Scream into the night. We’re just saying: If there was place where anyone could come, donate $5, and scream as loud and as long as they want, we’d be there in a heartbeat. Of course, there should be hot tea to soothe weary vocal cords after.
  1. It’s their choice. This simple fundraiser puts choice front and center. Each donor donates a fixed amount that covers one abortion or one post-partum wellness kit, supporting everyone’s choice to start a family how and if they want.
  1. Feminist makeovers. We all need that quick burst of joy that comes from getting a great haircut or a new piercing these days. Plus, a mini-makeover is a great reminder that it’s your body, and if you want a rainbow buzzcut, then a rainbow buzzcut you shall have. In that vein, host a day of feminist makeovers, where participants donate to abortion funds in exchange for gender-affirming haircuts and dye jobs, spiffy tattoos (temporary works!), colorful makeup application, or personalized nail art.

Fundraisers to remind you that the world isn’t on fire all the time

Whereas a lot of recent decisions have felt shocking and sudden, climate change is a slow burn …literally. Here are some fundraisers to fight climate change and deepen our connection to our majestic Mother Earth.

  1. Vegan lunch club. One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat less meat and dairy. Luckily for all of us, vegan options nowadays are plentiful and super delish. Choose a month, then send your supporters daily recipes for planet-friendly vegan lunches. At the end of the month, partner with a local vegan food cart for a celebratory meal!
  1. Garden party. Whether it’s Central Park or Mill Ends Park (that’s Portland, Oregon’s two-foot-across urban park with one teensy tree, for those who don’t know), green spaces improve air quality and provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Host a garden party to raise funds, get everyone outside, and foster an appreciation for the natural beauty around us. Serve sparkly beverages and seasonal finger foods—maybe adorned with edible flowers? So fancy!
  1. Guided hiking trip. What better way to connect with our planet and help to preserve it than with a guided outdoor excursion? If you want to mix things up, you can add a foraging component or even host a kayaking trip!
  1. Tree hug-a-thon. May we suggest a tree hug-a-thon for a unique peer-to-peer fundraiser? Supporters solicit pledges for every 10 trees they hug, then hug as many as possible in an hour. We feel better already!
  1. FernGully movie screening. Host an outdoor screening of this 90’s classic that inspired a generation of would-be environmentalists. OMG, it’s so good. We’re jealous if you’ve never seen it.

Fundraisers to support kids because they are the future and give us hope

The next generation has inherited a pretty challenging set of problems, but here’s the good news: They’re not sitting on the sidelines. They’re taking action, making their voices heard, and effecting change. But they can’t do it without us more-seasoned folks. so here are some ways to support a brighter future for tomorrow’s changemakers.

  1. Book drive. Literacy empowers and uplifts, and kids who read are more likely to be socially engaged adults. Organize a book drive for low-income kiddos, asking supporters to donate their favorites. If they’ve been banned, all the better!
  1. Multicultural game day. Spark an appreciation for different cultures with a multicultural game day fundraiser. From Oonch Neech in Pakistan to Skippyroo Kangaroo (nope, we’re not making that up) in Australia, kids will delight in learning some new ways to let loose—and parents will delight in an afternoon off.
  1. Art therapy. Give kids a creative outlet to express their feelings with an art therapy fundraiser. From coloring mandalas to drawing pictures of their emotions to making worry dolls, there are dozens of soothing, validating activities out there. You can also consider donating art therapy materials to local schools or families in need.

Fundraisers to forget about everything else for a few wonderful hours

Sometimes, we just want to log off and forget about everything beyond the current moment. When we need to feel blissfully unaware and wholly happy—while still supporting a great cause—here’s how we fundraise.

  1. Rescue animal petting zoo. Support your local animal rescue or sanctuary, pet their friendliest denizens, and watch everyone’s blood pressure drop.
  1. Rescue animal yoga. If you want even more feel-good health benefits, add yoga! Goat yoga’s taken over Instagram, but any animal yoga is bound to make you smile and provide some A+ photo opportunities.
  1. Rescue animal yoga and wine. After your wombat yoga, hold a wine tasting. Paradise on earth!
  1. Sci-fi/fantasy book club. There are classics and biographies and historical fiction and mysteries. But when you just want some good old-fashioned escapism, you can’t beat sci-fi and fantasy books. Organize an escapist book club filled with tales of far-off worlds, impossible feats, and pure magic. P.S. No dystopian sci-fi allowed.

With the world around us becoming more complex each day, fundraising shouldn't be a downer. Whether you want to feel empowered, distracted from the fray, or like you're making even more of a difference than you do every day, infuse your fundraising with care by using one of these ideas.

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